Searching for the Identity of San Francisco’s Mysterious Mummified Girl

We've read about how San Francisco city officials had all the city's dead moved to Colma in 1914 in order to reclaim the valuable land taken up by cemeteries. As methodical as they were, the project was massive, and mistakes were bound to be made. One was unearthed in May of 2016, when a construction crew dug up a small coffin under Ericka Karner's garage. The sealed coffin had two windows showing the corpse in good condition. There was no identifying information attached. The nonprofit Garden of Innocence organization built a new coffin and provided a burial for the child. But who was she? Her gravestone called her Miranda Eve.

That name was meant to be temporary, given to the dead girl by Karner’s own two young daughters, to be replaced when Miranda’s identity was finally discovered. See, before her second burial, researchers extracted DNA from the corpse, first to make sure that there was no foul play, then for clues.

The samples suggested Miranda had been weaned from breast milk a year before her death, putting her age between two and three-and-a-half years old when she died. They also hinted at a diet change that took place a few months before death, which suggested she died from a longer illness, not trauma. An analysis of her hair concluded she died of marasmus, or severe malnutrition, likely due to an infection.

Other information from the DNA, plus a painstaking search of city records finally yielded results. Read her story at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Garden of Innocence)


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